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Mall Empire Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Although there is still a lot of work left to be done, Mall Empire has a strong foundation. I can see the developers taking the concept and adding more layers and depth, giving us a simulator we won't want to put down. I'm sure this will eventually lead to a much better game, and I'm looking forward to checking in a few months from now. In its current state, Mall Empire is a fun game that feels incomplete. Rating: 57%
Mall Empire
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  • Review Score:

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As an industry, we're in a weird time where it's not always easy to tell the difference between what is in "Early Access" and what is a completed game. Mall Empire confuses that even more, as it's a supposedly finished game that probably should be part of Steam's preview program. It's the kind of game that will most likely change and evolve as feedback begins to roll in, taking a good idea and growing it into something special. Unfortunately, I'm not reviewing the potentially awesome version we'll likely see six months from now, but instead a full release that still feels woefully incomplete.

Created by a first-time developer, Mall Empire is a simulator where you build and manage a 2D shopping center. The idea is to buy blueprints, build a bunch of stores and then watch the money and customers roll in. As the popularity of your mall grows, you'll need to add new layers, buy new blueprints and build new stores. Eventually, you'll be able to upgrade the mall and renegotiate rent agreements. It's all the things I like about business simulators.


At first it seems almost too easy; just build a clothing store and bakery and the people will come. But things will quickly escalate as you stack stores on top of each other. One of the tricky parts of the game involves collecting the money. This is not done automatically, so you'll have to click through the dozens of stores to cash in. If you don't collect the money in 30 seconds, you'll lose out and the employees will get a nice bonus. Manually clicking all of the stores becomes a real headache once you have four or five stories to contend with.

As a first-time product, Mall Empire is pretty good. It's easy to play and I found myself glued to the screen for a couple hours. Unfortunately, there are a lot of times where it's blatantly obvious that this came from an inexperienced team. You see it in the little things, like not offering an adequate instruction manual and not giving us a way to speed up time. And that's just the start of the problems.

In some ways, I appreciate the simplicity of Mall Empire. This is a game that strips everything back to the bare essentials -- building stores and collecting money. But that started to get tedious after a while, and I began to wish there was more for me to do as a mall manager. Beyond the occasional upgrade, you'll have very little interaction with the stores. Most games in this genre would have you creating sales, adjusting prices and setting the number of staff members. These are the types of things that could affect the shopping experience and push customers to a different mall. But there's nothing like that here, and everything except for collecting money and upgrading the stock is done automatically.

The lack of customization is also disappointing. Forget about micro-managing the stores; you can't even name the mall. There are advertisements and online promotions you can purchase to drive traffic to the shopping center, but even that is little more than pressing a button and watching the results. It would have been nice to pick the images and wording, perhaps personalizing the experience you want customers to have.

Mall Empire (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Another problem is that there are no stakes at play. You don't have to buy mall security guards to thwart shoplifters or employ a janitorial staff. There aren't stores that run into hard times and have to close down due to a bad economy. You never have to worry about weather or major events keeping people from the mall, or local shopping centers competing for attention. As long as you're patient and keep collecting the money, you won't run into too many obstacles.

Although there is still a lot of work left to be done, Mall Empire has a strong foundation. I can see the developers taking the concept and adding more layers and depth, giving us a simulator we won't want to put down. I'm sure this will eventually lead to a much better game, and I'm looking forward to checking in a few months from now. In its current state, Mall Empire is a fun game that feels incomplete.
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